I Am The World Trade Center – The Tight Connection (Kindercore)

Writing them off as some college students with too many Stephin Merritt records, I initially resisted I Am The…’s pop electronica. Much like Merritt’s Future Bible Heroes, I Am The make that sort of bookish dance/pop music that doesn’t really sound retro but like an impression of retro. The bubbling synths are too polished. The drum machines are too clean and smooth. Halfway into the record, the strains of Blondie’s “Call Me” — run through a sequenced ringer and several dozen synthetic tones — came out of my stereo’s speakers. I put them away.

I had to listen to the record again to write up their most recent show in town. And I found myself listening to the record over and over. Hypnotic? Maybe. But I believe it’s a little different than that. It’s like its own little world. The way Amy Dykes’s voice mixes in the synth swirls and drumbeats is airtight.

Also, their pop is not so obvious. Choruses never announce themselves as such. Amy’s low voice has a fairly limited range (and if not, she doesn’t show it off). The voice is more important for the acoustic tones it provides. The hooks are usually in the effervescent keyboards. “Soiree” has little keyboard lines that sound like mobile phone rings that pop up after vocal lines. The occasional sample gives their music some breathing room. A sample underpins “Soiree”‘s verses. And “Dancing Alone” is driven by sweetened samples — like Fatboy Slim doing a Pepsi jingle.

The opener, “The Postcard,” is another of the stand-out tracks. Its drum pulses and electronic voices never distract the listener from Amy’s voice, but draw you deeper in. What’s really impressive about I Am The…, is the way they make each song sound different within their basically limited instrumentation. It would be much easier to have one song formula and repeat, but they give each track its own personality.

I Am The World Trade Center makes dorm room dance music. I doubt it’s that effective on any speakers. This is a record to enjoy on your headphones, alone. Amy and her partner, Dan Geller, record their music on a laptop. It’s music that’s created in a closed environment and draws you in rather than blasting out into your world. After a while, even their version of “Call Me” was on repeat in my headphones.